For Mind, Body, Spirit and Community: Why We Give to Conservation
|Gifts to conservation are a wedding anniversary tradition for Angie and Aaron Jungbluth of St. Charles. The couple supports conservation efforts financially as well as by serving as volunteer naturalists, including braving the cold every year for Eagle Days at the Chain of Rocks bridge, above right.|
“Angie told me she didn’t want an engagement ring,” recalls Aaron Jungbluth, “but I did ask her several times if she really meant it, just to be sure.”
Angie assured him, and confident in her decision, Aaron proposed marriage to his wife not with a ring but with a hand-made wooden frame of photos documenting their trips to four national parks while dating. It was to these parks, and The Nature Conservancy, that Aaron donated money that he would have used to buy an engagement ring for his to-be wife.
November 2009 marked their four-year anniversary, and the Jungbluths, who live in St. Charles, continue to support conservation efforts in celebration of their years of marriage. The latest recipient of their generosity is the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, which allows donors to specify to which conservation needs they want their donations allocated.
Aaron presented their donation information to Angie in the fall of 2009 while on a weekend trip to the North Fork of the White River. “She was extremely happy with my decision and grateful for how I specified that the donation be spent.” Angie, who is a 7th grade science teacher at DuBray Middle School in the Fort Zumalt School District, was instrumental in establishing an outdoor classroom at her school. With this in mind, Aaron stipulated that a percentage of their donation to the Foundation be allotted to supporting outdoor classrooms.
He also chose natural community land acquisition; wildlife habitat acquisition and management; stream protection, acquisition and management; and natural resource research. “Preserving our unusual habitats and unique natural areas while they are still intact,” said Aaron, “is what we consider one of the keys of conservation.”
Aaron, an electrical engineer at Boeing, has taken advantage of his employer’s matching gift program to double his contributions to the Foundation, as well as his past gifts to the national parks' associations, The Nature Conservancy, and other groups.
Aaron and Angie are dedicated not only to each other, but to getting out and actively enjoying and conserving Missouri’s outdoor treasures. The couple met seven years ago on a hike led by a Conservation Department volunteer naturalist on the Lewis and Clark Trail at Weldon Spring Conservation Area. Five years ago, they decided to become Conservation Department volunteer naturalists themselves, and just recently surpassed logging 1,000 volunteer hours each.
“We love to be in touch with the natural world ourselves,” said Aaron, “but we knew we needed to give something back—financially, and in terms of time and sharing our knowledge with others.” Aaron and Angie lead hikes at Busch Conservation Area, Rockwoods Reservation, and other public land in the St. Louis region. Every winter, they brave the cold winds over the Mississippi River to volunteer at the Chain of Rocks Bridge Eagle Days event. They are also active with the St. Louis Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.
When they aren’t working or volunteering, they are out exploring all parts of Missouri and beyond. They especially enjoy hiking, birding, kayaking, camping and nature journaling. Weldon Spring Conservation Area—where they met—remains a favorite hiking area. Another fond memory is of spending one of Angie’s spring breaks visiting five swamps in Missouri’s Southeast Lowlands. “We saw snakes just coming out of hibernation, an active eagle nest, bobcat tracks—we had a blast!” said Angie.
For the Jungbluths, financial and personal commitment to conservation is a way of life, and, they believe, necessary to sustain life. “This really is about the survival of our planet,” said Angie. “Our society simply can’t continue to abuse natural resources and landscapes as we have done in the past.”
For Angie, conservation is also about personal wellbeing. “People were not built to be indoors 24/7,” said Angie. “Research has even shown that we need blue light from the sky to regulate our circadian rhythms. That’s why green spaces and the conservation of our ecologically special places are so important. Outdoor recreation is a way to recharge—it’s about re-creation!”
And, Angie adds, her outdoor ethic is spiritually driven. “When I am out in nature it is like touching the face of God. Being surrounded by His creation has always been a very powerful experience for me."
To learn about the many ways you, like the Jungbluths, can make a financial contribution to the Foundation and support aspects of conservation that are most important to you, visit our Ways of Giving page.